Welcome! This blog tracks the real estate market in the Central Shenandoah Valley, featuring market data and analysis, an exploration of common buying and selling questions, and candid commentary on all things real estate.
If you are interested in discussing any of the topics on this blog, or the details of your specific real estate situation, call or e-mail me!
It can be terrifying to watch the business news these days…
Low interest rates are now lower
In large part because of the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mortgage interest rates have dropped considerably. Recent rates from local lenders are as low as 6.0% for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, which is a great opportunity for buyers.
Don't forget the first-time home buyer credit
If you haven't owned a home in the last three years, you are likely eligible for up to a $7,500 tax credit if you buy a home before July 1, 2009. This is a great opportunity to get a boost up in the first year of homeownership by helping offset closing costs or moving expenses.
High inventory empowers buyers
As a result of the basic rules of supply and demand, the current elevated levels of inventory (in almost all price ranges) provide buyers with a great opportunity to buy a home at a competitive price. That isn't to say that home sellers are universally negotiating large chunks off of their asking prices, but simply that buyers often have the upper hand in negotiations.
A strong and growing local economy
While local economic conditions vary to some degree in different parts of the Shenandoah Valley, the economic climate in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County continues to be very favorable. Unemployment is still very low, and many companies are expanding or opening their businesses in this market.
As you consider, with excitement, a home purchase – remember that buying a home should be viewed as a long-term investment. Run the numbers with your Realtor or lender to understand your financial position 3 years, 5 years and 7 years after purchasing a home. Have reasonable expectations about how long you will stay in a home, and how that will affect the financial perspective of a home purchase.
Despite the economic storm we are in the midst of nationally, it can still make good sense to buy a home in the Shenandoah Valley. Get to know your segment of the real estate market so that you are comfortable with the price you are paying, and the value of the home you are purchasing.
In the last three months, 250 properties have sold in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. On average, it took 177 days from the time they hit the market to the time they closed.
There have, however, been some record-breakers....
What does this mean for you?
That's not to imply that any settlement agents in Harrisonburg have wood-destroying insects in their conference rooms, but rather...
The standard Virginia purchase contract places some minimum termite treatment and repair requirements on the Seller, but does not mandate disclosing the infestation or damage at the time of discovery.
Here's what you need to know:
Two exciting milestones this week...
While houses are certainly selling, and some are selling quickly, there are many homes that are languishing on the market because of a collective increase in hopeful sellers, and decrease in able buyers over the past two years.
For the owners of those homes, the selling process can be an emotional roller coaster of an experience. I have witnessed that first hand several times lately in conversations with some of my seller clients, and in watching the Facebook status of some of my Facebook friends who are selling their homes right now.
What a high when someone actually wants to come see your house --- what an anxious feeling when you're waiting to hear how they liked your home --- and what a low when you discover they may not be making an offer on your home.
My advice for sellers in today's market:
If you're buying a home as well as selling a home, many people select the Realtor that they will work with based on how each Realtor will market their home for sale.
If you're a first-time buyer, and you don't already have a relationship with a Realtor, this leaves you with the following main options:
Set up a brief meeting with a few Realtors and talk to them generally about what is important to you in a house, and in a Realtor. Select the Realtor you will work with through the buying process based on having had real, in-person conversations with several Realtors so that you understand the service that they will provide to you, and so that you can sense whether your personality and communication styles will work well together.
I would certainly love to be one of those Realtors you talk to as you decide who to work with through the buying process. Call (540-578-0102) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you'd like to set up a time to get together, perhaps for some coffee.
Comparing 3rd Quarter 2008 sales stats with 3rd Quarter 2007 sales stats results in some interesting market variations across Virginia...
Number of Home Sales
What becomes interesting is when a buyer from a different part of the state is contemplating buying in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County. As you can imagine, some such buyers bring along assumptions about our market based on the current state of the market where they currently live.
Real estate is indeed local, and even within Harrisonburg and Rockingham County market conditions vary by area and price range. As a buyer, or as a seller, take the time to understand the market conditions that affect your purchase or sale!
OK --- so the typical smoke alarm isn't all that visually obtrusive --- but it is when compared to Kidde's Silhouette smoke alarm!
This low-profile smoke alarm protrudes less than half an inch from the ceiling, blending in much more nicely than a traditionally shaped smoke alarm. Furthermore, it uses a rechargeable battery that will last the life of the alarm! No more changing the batteries when the alarm starts beeping!
Yes --- sometimes we are still seeing multiple offers!
A house that shows well, is priced well, and is marketed well can still generate strong buyer interest --- even in a market where we are seeing 22% fewer sales than last year.
We received three offers in the first week on this delightful home on the northern end of Harrisonburg.
1143 Waterman Drive, Harrisonburg, VA
Are you considering buying at Preston Lake? Some of my clients are exploring the possibility of building a single family home at Preston Lake, and it's been an interesting process . . .
Access to the developer
We have been pleasantly surprised to have the opportunity to work directly with the developer, Richard Hine. Rich is very invested in the Preston Lake project, is very knowledgeable about the building process, and has been immensely helpful as my clients have explored the possibility of building at Preston Lake.
A flexible design process
While Preston Lake offers a variety of standard floor plans (for rowhouses and single family homes), they are also willing to make almost any modifications you might desire. We have now been through several different renditions of the floor plans for the "Cape Cod" style home, each time bringing the design a bit closer to what my clients' desires.
The building team at Preston Lake uses an online project management system to organize the design/build process, and to streamline communication. Even only in these early stages of the process, the use of this tool has been extremely helpful.
Final Pricing, Building Process, Final Product
Still yet to discover --- will the pricing work for my clients, will the building process be as pleasant as the design process, and will the finished home be exactly what my clients envisioned.
Overall, the building process at Preston Lake (or the complemplation thereof) has been a relatively enjoyable and efficient process. If you are considering buying at Preston Lake, and if you have any questions, please call (540-578-0102) or e-mail (email@example.com) me. Otherwise, stay tuned, and I'll keep you informed on the continuation of this process.
Roughly a month ago, the International Code Council approved hundreds of changes to be included in the 2009 version of the International Codes. Several of these changes mean we will be seeing more fire sprinklers in new construction homes:
Are you trying to avoid the potential danger of a space heater? Are you trying to heat a room or garage more efficiently than with a space heater? Have you considered a ceiling fan?
The fan pictured above, the Reiker Room Condition, may be what you are looking for. A heater is housed just above the fan blades, and the heat being generated is evenly distributed throughout a room.
These sophisticated fans will cost between $270 and $400 depending on options and finishes, and can be ordered through the Reiker web site, or found at some Home Depot stores.
If you have been following the development of Urban Exchange in downtown Harrisonburg, you may want to check out the floor plans for the condos that have just been released.
The project will include 192 studio, 1-BR, 2-BR and 3-BR condos in two towers. The apartments in the East Tower are available for rent. The condos in the West Tower are available for sale.
Find out more at LIVEUE.com.
I have now heard from several lenders that they cannot lend more than 80% on investment properties. The main issue seems to be that mortgage insurance companies are not willing to issue policies on investment properties any longer. (Most loans with less than a 20% down payment require mortgage insurance.)
In talking to people in Harrisonburg and around the state lately, I have heard several people comment about how it is now near impossible to obtain a mortgage to buy a home. This has not been my experience --- I am still seeing most (reasonably qualified) buyers having no problem obtaining a mortgage.
A few caveats:
If you are considering buying, don't be scared off by a concern that mortgages are not available. In fact --- in addition to mortgages being available, 30-year fixed rates are very low right now!
The September 2008 Harrisonburg & Rockingham County Real Estate Market Report is now available. Click here for a printable PDF of this report.
When comparing September 2008 to September 2007, both median and average sales prices show declines, of 3.85%, and 4.96% respectively. However, when comparing Jan-Sept 2008 to Jan-Sept 2008, the median sales price still shows an increase of 1.03%.
Each year for the past six years, September sales have been slower than in August, and 2008 was no different. However, September 2008 sales were stronger than September 2007, which, combined with the typical increase in October sales, make this a good trend to watch.
This graph shows a normalized trend of home sales by charting the ongoing sum of the preceding 12 months' sales. Pay close attention this trend next month, as the September 2008 sales trend figure (Oct 1 ‘07 - Sept 30 ‘08) shows an increase in sales.
For quite some time, we have seen an elevated level of inventory -- thus, it is healthy to see a decrease in inventory levels. Yet, we may also be observing a seasonal trend in inventory that we will see continue through the winter.
Inventory has declined since August, and likewise, the number of months of housing that is on the market has also declined. The sub-$200k supply has remained stable for several months, but the price range with the most extreme over-supply ($400k+) has declined.
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